About halfway through my visit to Binghamton last weekend, after I’d posted a check-in at the Cider Mill, my friend Deb asked on Facebook if I was having a food tour through the northeast. Looking at my page, I can see how she would have come to that conclusion; while not everything I posted while I was home was eating-centric, most of it was. If it’s possible to be considered nostalgic about food, I most certainly am. Every trip back to New York – whether Binghamton or Albany – is organized around making sure I can eat all the things I love. Fortunately, my family and friends don’t seem to mind this quirk of mine. (And, in fact, my sister Eileen shares this trait, so when we’re together at home, as we were this time, I have a partner in crime. My scale tells me this might not be a good thing.)
I started off this most recent dining extravaganza at a place I love – Saratoga Race Track, where we went pretty much every summer of my life growing up, and where I continued to go regularly when I lived in the Albany area. My favorite go-to item at the track has always been the Manhattan clam chowder, which, while not the most filling offering, is definitely the tastiest. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could get a bowl of chowder and a beer for $8.00, which seemed like a bargain, given that I can get just the beer for that amount at Nationals Park here in DC. And despite a hot sauce mishap (I forgot to stir it in, making my first bite a doozy) my race-day lunch proved every bit as delicious as I had remembered.
Eileen and I carried on another family tradition on the way home from the track, stopping at Brooks House of Bar-B-Q in Oneonta on the way home. Their sliced pork barbecue dinner is one of my favorite meals in the world, and one that it’s lucky I live hundreds of miles from, because I would be big as a house if I could eat it as often as I wanted. They happened to have fresh corn on the cob as the vegetable of the day, which was the perfect supplement to my usual pork and fries. Yum!
We finished Friday as full as can be, but were ready to begin anew by lunchtime on Saturday, which we spent at Mario’s, our favorite pizzeria. There is nothing in this world quite like a slice and a Coke – especially when that slice is proper New York style. My nephew James, though born in Texas, revealed himself as a New Yorker at heart when he downed about 3/4 of a slice on his own… his very first piece of pizza.
I forgot to photograph our next two stops – the aforementioned Cider Mill, where we picked up cider and doughnuts for Sunday’s breakfast, and the (as we came to discover) former Carvel on Riverside Drive. Despite the fact that it had, in fact, become possibly the filthiest ice cream shop I have ever seen, we still got soft serve with sprinkles for a snack. We had a plan, and a little bit of dirt wasn’t going to stop us!
Oof. I am feeling full again just writing all of this. And like a bit of a glutton, but really, it’s just two meals a day over three days, so not that bad, right? Right?
Our final stop – for lunch on Sunday – was at the Little Venice, where I think nearly every family milestone for four generations has been celebrated. Wee James had a chance to try spaghetti and meatballs for the first time, and Eileen and I both had our favorite – cheese ravioli. And, much to my surprise, I received a free gelato in exchange for my Foursquare check-in. It never occurred to me that a place that I consider to be very old-school would be so social media savvy. (I mean, I knew they had a Facebook page, but I didn’t think it went beyond that!)
I pulled out of Binghamton with a full belly – and a car containing a stash of barbecue sauce, doughnuts, cider, and frozen pasta dinners… Hooray for leftovers, and for my favorite places having packaged items that are easy for far-away fans to enjoy!
I am now considering a more aggressive workout regimen, by the way.